Daniel Ricciardo has admitted the timing of his Formula One race debut could be linked with the longevity of countryman Mark Webber's career.
The pair joked as they barbequed sausages for the media this week, but already posed to Toro Rosso's new Friday driver Ricciardo was whether he is just waiting for Webber to retire.
If that happens, one of Toro Rosso's current racers is expected to get the call alongside Sebastian Vettel, while Ricciardo replaces him at the Red Bull junior team.
"This Friday contract is already like a gift from heaven and the second best thing to being an F1 driver. It's an obvious step forward for me.
"It's premature to speculate about what Mark is going to do," he answered.
Ricciardo, who is 13 years younger than Webber, told Finland's Turun Sanomat that he gets along well with his fellow Australian.
"A long time ago he gave me his mobile number. Mark himself had a rocky road to the top of F1 and he is definitely trying to help so that I avoid some of his difficulties," he explained.
And if he should get an early call to the F1 grid, Ricciardo confirmed that he is ready.
"I am very happy with the situation now but if something did arise then I would be ready to step up," he said.
Vettel quiet after title win indulgence
Sebastian Vettel has admitted he treated himself to a personal gift after winning the 2010 title.
"I won't lie to you," he told a reporter for Germany's Bild newspaper, after shearing a sheep at a farm outside Melbourne.
"Yes, I did."
But the 23-year-old Red Bull driver is not giving anything else away.
Asked mischievously if he bought a Ferrari, the German smiled: "No, not a car."
Bild added: "A plane?" Vettel: "All I can say is; I have it ordered but it hasn't arrived yet. So you'll have to work a bit harder."
Also this week, another champion Lewis Hamilton admitted he too has splashed out since becoming one of F1's highest earners.
Asked by the Sun what his most expensive purchase has been, the Briton answered: "It's got to be this diamond ring -- it's Bvlgari. It was ridiculously expensive.
"But the most expensive thing I have ever bought was for my girlfriend, I bought her a ring for our anniversary and that was frigging expensive," he added.
Ecclestone Not In New York For F1 Race Talks
Bernie Ecclestone has not travelled to New York this week to discuss a possible Formula One race on Staten Island, it has emerged.
Explaining that the F1 chief executive had broken his earlier plans to attend the Melbourne season opener, race boss Ron Walker said Ecclestone had instead accepted the invitation of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But a New York City Hall official told the Herald Sun that there is "Nothing planned" between the 80-year-old and Bloomberg.
And when asked about the plans for a Staten Island grand prix, a spokesman for Bloomberg answered: "We don't have such a plan."
Indeed, Ecclestone has been giving interviews in the last 24 hours from his London office.
Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Ron Walker admitted he was confused: "Everybody tells me he is meeting with (New York) city officials but I have no idea what's in his diary at all.
"It's none of my business," he insisted.
Revealingly, Walker said he was not disappointed Ecclestone had broken his plans to fly to Australia.
"He's a task master you see. If you were to ask him the future of the race, he could just say 'none'. So these are reasons why I don't want him here."
Ecclestone confirmed to Reuters the news about him skipping Australia, and when asked if Staten Island is a candidate for a future race, he answered: "No, absolutely 100 per cent."
Ecclestone Attacks FIA And President Todt
Bernie Ecclestone has stepped up his attack on Jean Todt, highlighting a growing rift between F1's Chief Executive and the head of the governing FIA.
Ecclestone said recently he is "at loggerheads" with Todt over the 2013 engine rules, with Todt responding this week: "I hear about the (engine) noise, but that's evolution."
The 80-year-old, in London this week rather than travelling to Australia for the season opener, has replied with a stinging attack on Frenchman Todt -- "a poor man's Max."
That reference is to Ecclestone's long time friend and fellow F1 powerbroker Max Mosley, who pushed strongly for Todt as his successor.
But Ecclestone insists the pair is not alike.
"He (Todt) has been travelling around the world doing what Max didn't do too much -- kissing the babies and shaking the hands."
He told the UK newspaper Express that Todt has "not so much had a positive effect on formula one", and slammed efforts to make the sport green a "complete joke".
Ecclestone has voiced his disdain for this year's new rules, including KERS and adjustable rear wings, and is campaigning hard for his own ideas such as artificial rain and medals instead of points.
"We should write the rules with the teams," he said. "The competitors have got to race and have got a big investment. We have got a big investment.
"It (the FIA) should be like the police -- the police don't write the rules and say you've got to do 30 miles an hour. The FIA is a joke," Ecclestone charged.
Alonso As Great As Schumacher: Montezemolo
Fernando Alonso is as good as Michael Schumacher, according to Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo.
He told Corriere dello Sport that the Spaniard "lacks nothing" in comparison to F1's statistically greatest-ever driver.
Explaining Schumacher's huge success, Montezemolo agreed that Schumacher "is a great but he also had a car clearly superior to the others".
Sir Stirling Moss told F1 Racing magazine: "I think he was lucky to get all those titles, frankly. He (Schumacher) got them because he was in the right car."
Schumacher reacted sarcastically when faced with 81-year-old Moss' appraisal.
"Yes, I have been a very lucky person," he told the Telegraph. "I feel that my success speaks for itself. You can't always be lucky."
The 42-year-old German told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday that he is hoping for regular podiums and possibly some wins this year.
But Alex Wurz is not sure the seven time world champion will perform comparatively better alongside his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2011.
"Formula One has changed and I don't believe it's going to look much better for him this year," the Austrian told laola1.at.
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